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Northern Powerhouse

Volume 603: debated on Monday 14 December 2015

The northern powerhouse is a project that runs across a number of Government Departments. The contribution made by this Department includes: the local growth funds, 11 of which are worth nearly £3 billion; the £400 million northern powerhouse investment fund; the devolution deals being agreed right across the north of England; and, of course, the doubling of the enterprise zones in the northern powerhouse announced in the spending review by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Earlier this year, the Government invested over £113 million in high-performance computing in my constituency at the Hartree Centre, a joint venture between the Science and Technology Facilities Council and IBM bringing high skill, high wage jobs to Weaver Vale. Does my hon. Friend agree that investment in technology and science is key to the growth of the northern powerhouse?

I commend my hon. Friend’s important and significant work in this area. He is a passionate advocate for his constituency and for investment in it. This is just one more example of Government investment in the north to build the northern powerhouse and rebalance our economy. As we saw in the autumn statement, science and innovation spending is being protected. We are investing in the economic growth of the future. This is a great example of that and my hon. Friend deserves commendation for the work he has done to deliver it.

Will this Government stop patronising the north? We are a powerhouse. Give us the investment in infrastructure. We are the people who still make things in this country. We make the wealth of this country. Many people in this part of the world—London and the south—live parasitically on our efforts. Stop patronising, start investing!

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for the northern powerhouse project. The Government recognise the potential of the north to drive our economy. The north can make a difference if it is invested in, and, crucially, if the people of the north are given real control over their own future. That is what we are doing. That is what the devolution agenda is about and what some of the investments I spoke of are about. We are going to deliver it. It will make a real difference to his constituents and to mine.

What support are the Government giving to small businesses in the northern powerhouse area to ensure that they benefit from all the procurements that will come from it?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. The £400 million northern powerhouse investment fund will be targeted specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises. Growth hubs across the north are driving that investment and giving that support. We want our big industries to succeed and drive forward our economy, but our small and medium-sized enterprises are important too. We want to invest in them and give local people the controls they need to ensure they can reach their potential.

The Minister will be aware that the Scottish Government procure 46% from small and medium -sized enterprises compared to the UK Government’s 26%. Will he look at the Glasgow and Clyde Valley city deal, which has a supplier development programme to encourage SMEs?

City deals can be key drivers for growth. I welcome those that have already been agreed and we continue to have talks, including with some of the great cities and city regions in Scotland, on where we can go further and what more we can do. I hope we can deliver more in due course, because we can already see the difference the deals are making.

On behalf of the whole House, we thank all hard-pressed and often low-paid council staff and others who even now are helping those areas of the north so badly affected by the recent flooding.

In contrast to the rhetoric about the northern powerhouse, the Office for National Statistics recently reported that the north is falling further behind as a result of under-investment and that it is getting worse. The average Londoner now produces £42,000 a year added value, while in the north-east the average is only £18,000. In the place of more cuts, will the Minister now include specific, substantial and urgent northern investment in his local government settlement later this week?

The hon. Gentleman raises the important point that our economy has for too long been unbalanced. The whole point of the northern powerhouse project is to address that imbalance, ensuring we unlock the significant growth potential that exists across the north and the contribution the northern powerhouse can make to our economy. We can see, from a number of the announcements, that that investment is going in, but more importantly it is going in hand-in-hand with local control, giving control to the people who know best how to grow the economies of the north because they live in them and are part of them.